Daniel 4

1[Heb. 3:31]
Beginning with 4:1, the verse numbers through 4:37 in the English Bible differ from the verse numbers in the Aramaic text (BHS), with 4:1 ET = 3:31 AT, 4:2 ET = 3:32 AT, 4:3 ET = 3:33 AT, 4:4 ET = 4:1 AT, etc., through 4:37 ET = 4:34 AT. Thus Dan 3:31–33 of the Aramaic text appears as Dan 4:1–3 in the English Bible, and the corresponding verses of ch. 4 differ accordingly. In spite of the division of the Aramaic text, a good case can be made that 3:31–33 AT (= 4:1–3 ET) is actually the introduction to ch. 4.
“King Nebuchadnezzar, to all peoples, nations, and language groups that live in all the land: Peace and prosperity!
Aram “May your peace increase!”
2I am delighted to tell you about the signs and wonders that the most high God has done for me.

3 “How great are his signs!
How mighty are his wonders!
His kingdom will last forever,
Aram “his kingdom is an everlasting kingdom.”

and his authority continues from one generation to the next.”

Nebuchadnezzar Dreams of a Tree Chopped Down

4 [Heb. 4:1]
This verse marks the beginning of chap. 4 in the Aramaic text of Daniel (see the note on 4:1). The Greek OT (LXX) has the following addition: “In the eighteenth year of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign he said.” This date would suggest a link to the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 B.C. In general, the LXX of chapters 4–6 is very different from the MT, so much so that the following notes will call attention only to selected readings. In Daniel 4 the LXX lacks sizable portions of material in the MT (e.g., vv. 3–6, 31–32), includes sizable portions of material not in the MT (e.g., v. 14a, parts of vv. 16, 28), has a different order of some material (e.g., v. 8 after v. 9), and in some instances is vastly different from the MT (e.g., vv. 30, 34). Whether these differences are due to an excessively paraphrastic translation technique adopted for these chapters in the LXX, or are due to differences in the underlying Vorlage of the LXX, is a disputed matter. The latter seems more likely. There is a growing trend in modern scholarship to take the LXX of chapters 4–6 much more seriously than was the case in most earlier text-critical studies that considered this issue.
I, Nebuchadnezzar, was relaxing in my home,
Aram “my house.”
living luxuriously
Aram “happy.”
in my palace.
5I saw a dream that
Aram “and it.”
frightened me badly. The things I imagined while lying on my bed – these visions of my mind – were terrifying me.
6So I issued an order
Aram “from me there was placed a decree.”
for all the wise men of Babylon to be brought
The Aramaic infinitive here is active.
before me so that they could make known to me the interpretation of the dream.
7When the magicians, astrologers, wise men, and diviners entered, I recounted the dream for them. But they were unable to make known its interpretation to me. 8Later Daniel entered (whose name is Belteshazzar after the name of my god,
This explanation of the meaning of the name Belteshazzar may be more of a paronomasia than a strict etymology.
and in whom there is a spirit of the holy gods). I recounted the dream for him as well,
9saying, “Belteshazzar, chief of the magicians, in whom I know there to be a spirit of the holy gods and whom no mystery baffles, consider
The present translation assumes the reading חֲזִי (khazi, “consider”) rather than the MT חֶזְוֵי (khezvey, “visions”). The MT implies that the king required Daniel to disclose both the dream and its interpretation, as in chapter 2. But in the following verses Nebuchadnezzar recounts his dream, while Daniel presents only its interpretation.
my dream that I saw and set forth its interpretation!
10Here are the visions of my mind
The LXX lacks the first two words (Aram “the visions of my head”) of the Aramaic text.
while I was on my bed.

While I was watching,
there was a tree in the middle of the land.
Instead of “in the middle of the land,” some English versions render this phrase “a tree at the center of the earth” (NRSV); NAB, CEV “of the world”; NLT “in the middle of the earth.” The Hebrew phrase can have either meaning.

It was enormously tall.
Aram “its height was great.”

11 The tree grew large and strong.
Its top reached far into the sky;
it could be seen
Aram “its sight.” So also v. 17.
from the borders of all the land.
Or “to the end of all the earth” (so KJV, ASV); NCV, CEV “from anywhere on earth.”

12 Its foliage was attractive and its fruit plentiful;
on it there was food enough for all.
Under it the wild animals
Aram “the beasts of the field.”
used to seek shade,
and in its branches the birds of the sky used to nest.
All creatures
Aram “all flesh.”
used to feed themselves from it.
13 While I was watching in my mind’s visions
Aram “the visions of my head.”
on my bed,
a holy sentinel
Aram “a watcher and a holy one.” The expression is a hendiadys; so also in v. 23. This “watcher” is apparently an angel. The Greek OT (LXX) in fact has ἄγγελος (angelos, “angel”) here. Theodotion simply transliterates the Aramaic word (’ir). The term is sometimes rendered “sentinel” (NAB) or “messenger” (NIV, NLT).
came down from heaven.
14 He called out loudly
Aram “in strength.”
as follows:
Aram “and thus he was saying.”

‘Chop down the tree and lop off its branches!
Strip off its foliage
and scatter its fruit!
Let the animals flee from under it
and the birds from its branches!
15 But leave its taproot
Aram “the stock of its root.” So also v. 23. The implication here is that although the tree is chopped down, it is not killed. Its life-giving root is spared. The application to Nebuchadnezzar is obvious.
in the ground,
with a band of iron and bronze around it
The function of the band of iron and bronze is not entirely clear, but it may have had to do with preventing the splitting or further deterioration of the portion of the tree that was left after being chopped down. By application it would then refer to the preservation of Nebuchadnezzar’s life during the time of his insanity.

surrounded by the grass of the field.
Let it become damp with the dew of the sky,
and let it live with
Aram “its lot be.”
the animals in the grass of the land.
16 Let his mind
Aram “its heart.” The metaphor of the tree begins to fade here and the reality behind the symbol (the king) begins to emerge.
be altered from that of a human being,
and let an animal’s mind be given to him,
and let seven periods of time
The seven periods of time probably refer to seven years.
go by for
Aram “over” (also in vv. 23, 25, 32).
17 This announcement is by the decree of the sentinels;
this decision is by the pronouncement of the holy ones,
so that
The present translation follows an underlying reading of עַל־דִּבְרַת (’al-divrat, “so that”) rather than MT עַד־דִּבְרַת (’ad-divrat, “until”).
those who are alive may understand
that the Most High has authority over human kingdoms,
Aram “the kingdom of man”; NASB “the realm of mankind”; NCV “every kingdom on earth.”

and he bestows them on whomever he wishes.
He establishes over them even the lowliest of human beings.’
18 “This is the dream that I, King Nebuchadnezzar, saw. Now you, Belteshazzar, declare its
The present translation reads פִּשְׁרֵהּ (pishreh, “its interpretation”) with the Qere and many medieval Hebrew MSS; the Kethib is פִּשְׁרָא (pishra’, “the interpretation”); so also v. 16.
interpretation, for none of the wise men in
Aram “of.”
my kingdom are able to make known to me the interpretation. But you can do so, for a spirit of the holy gods is in you.”

Daniel Interprets Nebuchadnezzar’s Dream

19 Then Daniel (whose name is also Belteshazzar) was upset for a brief time;
Aram “about one hour.” The expression refers idiomatically to a brief period of time of undetermined length.
his thoughts were alarming him. The king said, “Belteshazzar, don’t let the dream and its interpretation alarm you.” But Belteshazzar replied, “Sir,
Aram “my lord.”
if only the dream were for your enemies and its interpretation applied to your adversaries!
20The tree that you saw that grew large and strong, whose top reached to the sky, and which could be seen
Aram “its sight.”
in all the land,
21whose foliage was attractive and its fruit plentiful, and from which there was food available for all, under whose branches wild animals
Aram “the beasts of the field” (also in vv. 23, 25, 32).
used to live, and in whose branches birds of the sky used to nest –
22it is you,
Much of modern scholarship views this chapter as a distortion of traditions that were originally associated with Nabonidus rather than with Nebuchadnezzar. A Qumran text, the Prayer of Nabonidus, is often cited for parallels to these events.
O king! For you have become great and strong. Your greatness is such that it reaches to heaven, and your authority to the ends of the earth.
23As for the king seeing a holy sentinel coming down from heaven and saying, ‘Chop down the tree and destroy it, but leave its taproot in the ground, with a band of iron and bronze around it, surrounded by the grass of the field. Let it become damp with the dew of the sky, and let it live with the wild animals, until seven periods of time go by for him’ – 24this is the interpretation, O king! It is the decision of the Most High that this has happened to my lord the king. 25You will be driven
The Aramaic indefinite active plural is used here like the English passive. So also in v. 28, 29, 32.
from human society,
Aram “from mankind.” So also in v. 32.
and you will live
Aram “your dwelling will be.” So also in v. 32.
with the wild animals. You will be fed
Or perhaps “be made to eat.”
grass like oxen,
Nebuchadnezzar’s insanity has features that are associated with the mental disorder known as boanthropy, in which the person so afflicted imagines himself to be an ox or a similar animal and behaves accordingly.
and you will become damp with the dew of the sky. Seven periods of time will pass by for you, before
Aram “until.”
you understand that the Most High is ruler over human kingdoms and gives them to whomever he wishes.
26They said to leave the taproot of the tree, for your kingdom will be restored to you when you come to understand that heaven
The reference to heaven here is a circumlocution for God. There was a tendency in Jewish contexts to avoid direct reference to God. Cf. the expression “kingdom of heaven” in the NT and such statements as “I have sinned against heaven and in your sight” (Luke 15:21).
27Therefore, O king, may my advice be pleasing to you. Break away from your sins by doing what is right, and from your iniquities by showing mercy to the poor. Perhaps your prosperity will be prolonged.”
Aram “if there may be a lengthening to your prosperity.”

28 Now all of this happened
Aram “reached.”
to King Nebuchadnezzar.
29After twelve months, he happened to be walking around on the battlements
The word “battlements” is not in the Hebrew text, but is supplied from context. Many English versions supply “roof” here (e.g., NAB, NASB, NIV, NRSV); cf. NLT “on the flat roof.”
of the royal palace of Babylon.
30The king uttered these words: “Is this not the great Babylon that I have built for a royal residence
Aram “house.”
by my own mighty strength
Aram “by the might of my strength.”
and for my majestic honor?”
31While these words were still on the king’s lips,
Aram “in the mouth of the king.”
a voice came down from heaven: “It is hereby announced to you,
Aram “to you they say.”
King Nebuchadnezzar, that your kingdom has been removed from you!
32You will be driven from human society, and you will live with the wild animals. You will be fed grass like oxen, and seven periods of time will pass by for you before
Aram “until.”
you understand that the Most High is ruler over human kingdoms and gives them to whomever he wishes.”

33 Now in that very moment
Aram “hour.”
this pronouncement about
Or “on.”
Nebuchadnezzar came true.
Aram “was fulfilled.”
He was driven from human society, he ate grass like oxen, and his body became damp with the dew of the sky, until his hair became long like an eagle’s feathers, and his nails like a bird’s claws.
The words “feathers” and “claws” are not present in the Aramaic text, but have been added in the translation for clarity.

34 But at the end of the appointed time
Aram “days.”
I, Nebuchadnezzar, looked up
Aram “lifted up my eyes.”
toward heaven, and my sanity returned to me.

I extolled the Most High,
and I praised and glorified the one who lives forever.
For his authority is an everlasting authority,
and his kingdom extends from one generation to the next.
35 All the inhabitants of the earth are regarded as nothing.
The present translation reads כְּלָא (kela’), with many medieval Hebrew MSS, rather than כְּלָה (kelah) of BHS.

He does as he wishes with the army of heaven
and with those who inhabit the earth.
No one slaps
Aram “strikes against.”
his hand
and says to him, ‘What have you done?’
36 At that time my sanity returned to me. I was restored
The translation reads הַדְרֵת (hadret, “I returned”) rather than the MT הַדְרִי (hadri, “my honor”); cf. Theodotion.
to the honor of my kingdom, and my splendor returned to me. My ministers and my nobles were seeking me out, and I was reinstated
The translation reads הָתְקְנֵת (hotqenet, “I was established”) rather than the MT הָתְקְנַת (hotqenat, “it was established”). As it stands, the MT makes no sense here.
over my kingdom. I became even greater than before.
37Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, for all his deeds are right and his ways are just. He is able to bring down those who live
Aram “walk.”
in pride.

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